The Quest for the Moonlit Orb: Part Two
For hours, four pets and a fire faerie sat in a dirty shop as the wind howled outside and the windows rattled. Rain pounded the little shop where ownerless Nalina and Narros had lived for years. Lightning lit the black sky and thunder boomed, shaking the little wooden store. It seemed the clouds had raged war on Neopia Central, pelting it with torrents of water.
Nalina and Narros did not notice the storm, however. They were listening closely to the story their strange visitors had to tell, a story about a quest, a villain, a mystical object, and four fire faeries. The story was real, and that particular villain was scheming far away that same night. The Scorchio called Ten had started the tale, but he was not the one to finish it.
“A week ago,” Ten began, “Cleo and I lived in Faerieland with our owner, a boy called Jamie. Jamie talked a lot about a story his brother told him, a story about a glowing orb and fire faeries. He was always researching, but he didn’t tell us anything. I think he was afraid to tell us all he knew. Then one day Cleo and I went shopping, and when we returned our home had been burglarized and ransacked, and Jamie was gone. The office had been destroyed, completely burned to the ground. It was where Jamie kept his research. The only thing we could find in the ashes was a scrap of paper labeled, “Terror Mountain”. We thought this might be where Jamie was, so we prepared to leave.”
“What is this ‘glowing orb’?” Narros asked as Ten paused.
“The Moonlit Orb,” Ten said softly.
“The Moonlight Orb?” said Narros and Nalina at the same time.
“No!” Mysia interrupted. “The Moonlit Orb. Created from moonlight and faerie magic and lit by fire.” When Narros and Nalina still looked puzzled, she sighed and began to tell them the history of the Orb.
“Long ago, when Neopia was just beginning, Queen Fyora (she was queen even then) gathered four of her most trusted fire faeries on a night when the moon (Kreludor) was full and shining brightly. Fyora created a spell, an extremely powerful one, to capture some of that moonlight and mold it into an object, an orb of sorts. To complete the spell, each of the four fire faeries lit the moonlight with fire (don’t ask me what that means; I don’t know. I wasn’t there), and the Moonlit Orb was created. The Orb could do all kinds of things, whatever the user desired. Fyora soon realized how dangerous such a thing could be, so she asked each of the four fire faeries to become guardians for the Orb, and make sure it never fell into the wrong hands.
“But one of the Guardians, Sylia, was angry that Fyora didn’t trust her to be the only Guardian. She thought she was talented enough to handle the important task on her own. Without realizing what she was doing, Sylia told a dark faerie named Damascus all about the Orb, and informed her of her fury with Fyora for not making her the only Guardian. Damascus had once been her friend, so Sylia didn’t realize the terrible risk she was taking. When Sylia realized Damascus was no longer her trusted friend, and she would use the information to steal the Orb, she immediately went to Fyora and confessed. She promised she would never betray Fyora again, so Fyora forgave her and allowed her to continue guarding the Orb.
“Fyora then put a spell on Damascus, of what nature no one knows, so that she would not remember anything Sylia had told her. Before Fyora performed the spell, Damascus told the Faerie Queen that one other person had heard Sylia that night. A dark sorcerer, a Halloween Kougra by the name of Goulart, had heard and planned to steal the Orb. Fyora went after him, but never could find his lair. When after several years Goulart still did not appear, Fyora decided he might have thought it would be too difficult to steal the Orb, or perhaps did not believe the story. She kept on the lookout for him, and so did the Guardians, but he never appeared.
“The four Guardians spread across Neopia, and one of them kept the Orb until they feared it was no longer safe at their location, and then they would pass it on to the next location. This way the Orb was never in one place consistently, but being transported all across Neopia. However, years passed, and the Guardians grew old. Each chose a relative, another fire faerie they felt was trustworthy. I am one of those relations. The original Guardian and creator of the Orb chose my mother to follow her, and then my mother chose me. There is a tradition, by the way, for each new Guardian to have the same name as the original Guardian.”
“So Mysia was the original Guardian’s name?” Nalina asked.
“Yes. Many faeries in my family are named Mysia by hopeful parents, but only one is chosen, so I have cousins and aunts and nieces all with the same name, but most of them will never be Guardian.”
“Isn’t it kind of obvious to Goulart who the Guardians are, if they all have the same name?” Cleo asked.
“No, Goulart never learned the names of the Guardians. He did not know Sylia’s name; he just overhead her speaking with Damascus. In many faerie families a particular name is traditional, so if Goulart were to learn of my family, most of whom are named Mysia, he would think it was just a traditional family name. Have you all finished asking questions? I need to get on with it.”
Cleo, Ten, Narros, and Nalina nodded.
“Anyway, the other Guardians’ names are Sylia, Ankira, and Cymirus.
“Each of the Guardians was given a special necklace from Fyora that would glow yellow when the Orb was in danger, red when it had been stolen, and green when everything was fine.”
Mysia pulled out a beautiful golden chain, with a circular stone hanging from it. The stone was glowing bright red.
“It’s been stolen,” Nalina said softly.
“How did your owner know about the Orb if it was a secret?” Narros asked Cleo and Ten.
Cleo replied, “According to Mysia, one human boy who worked at Fyora’s palace heard something big was going to happen. He followed Fyora and the fire faeries and witnessed the creation of the Orb. His name was Amman, and he told his brother Jamie, our owner, all about the Orb. Amman was intrigued by it, but died of a non-Neopian disease soon after the Orb’s creation. Jamie was very young then, but decided to find this Orb for his brother’s sake. We are afraid someone like Goulart realized Jamie knew about the Orb and uncovered their plot to steal it, so they kidnapped him or something and burned all of his research.”
“Apparently a lot of people know about the Orb. Fyora; the families of Sylia, Cymirus, Ankira, and Mysia; Amman; Jamie; Cleo; Ten; Damascus; Goulart; and now us, and no telling who else some of those people might have told,” Narros remarked. Mysia nodded gravely.
“That’s why this is so serious,” she said quietly. “The Orb has been stolen, and I have no idea where to go to find it.”
“So, how did the three of you meet up?” Nalina queried.
“You see, Ten and I decided to leave Faerieland,” Cleo began, “to find Jamie. Mysia was leaving too (she lives in Faerieland, you know), and she heard us discussing the Orb. She confronted us, and then... I don’t really know how it happened, but we ended up going with her. She’s finding all of the Guardians, so they can find the person who stole the Orb and defeat him. We hope to find Jamie along the way. We just arrived in Neopia Central because Ankira lives here. We’re going to see if she knows who had the Orb when it was stolen.”
There was silence for a few minutes. Then thunder boomed and the lights went out completely. Realizing how tired they all were, Ten suggested they go to bed. Narros insisted on being the one to sleep on the floor because he was used to sleeping in various places during his travels. Cleo got the bed, and Mysia slept on the couch. Nalina slept on a broken armchair, and Ten piled a few extra blankets on a wooden bench Narros and Nalina had put up for sale. The three guests fell asleep immediately, but Narros and Nalina whispered to each other in the dark.
“Do you think we can trust them? Are they telling us the truth?” Narros wondered aloud. Nalina replied, “If they were burglars or petnappers or something, they would have acted already. And besides, if they were lying, how could they make all that up on the spot? If they were lying, they’d just say they were friends on vacation that got caught in a storm. It’s far more believable. I think we can trust them. And Mysia’s necklace—it was magical, I could tell. Where else could she have gotten it? Anyway, none of it really matters. They’ll be gone in the morning.”
Narros had to agree with his sister’s logic, but he still felt uneasy. He was glad he arrived when he did, or his sister would have been alone tonight. She could take care of herself, but what would she have done if she were alone?
He was so tired, he couldn’t think very clearly. Perhaps he had better go to sleep. Things would make more sense in the morning.
Nalina, despite all the things she had said, was nervous. She was afraid to fall asleep. However, she felt herself nodding off. Around midnight, sleep finally overcame her. Narros had drifted off two or three hours earlier.
At one in the morning, Mysia awoke. She realized the rain had stopped. The shop was silent. She sat up on the sofa, and looked at the sleeping Zafara and Shoyru. The Zafara was small and thin, but she seemed intelligent. Narros was bright, too, but in a different way. And both of them had common sense. They had a quality Mysia liked, though she wasn’t sure what it was. But did that mean she could trust them?
Cleo and Ten, they were a different story. Their owner was missing; all they wanted was to find him. But these two—there was nothing to stop them from betraying them all! Mysia felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. Besides Cleo and Ten, she had never, ever, told anyone about the Orb. She had never trusted anyone outside her own family. She trusted her family only because her family knew about the Orb, and was sworn to secrecy. She wasn’t sure she knew exactly how to trust someone completely.
Of course, Mysia had been told many times that she took things too seriously. Someone had told her before, half-jokingly, that she took her paranoia to an unhealthy, even insane level. But wasn’t that her job? To protect the Orb at all costs, insuring the safety of Neopia? Matarah’s words echoed in her head: “Lighten up, Mysia! There’s more to life than villains and magic balls! Live a little!” Had her sister been right? Was she a caution freak? But since when did she care what her little sister thought? Matarah was a disgrace to the family name, after all. Matarah was crazy...
Mysia forced herself to think of the present, not the past. Right this moment, someone had the Orb, someone who probably had no good intentions. For now Mysia needed rest. They would be seeing Ankira tomorrow.
Nearby, Cleo was sound asleep. Nalina and Narros didn’t look particularly comfortable, but they were sleeping as well. Ten was in the front of the shop, of course, so Mysia couldn’t see him, but he was probably sleeping too. Mysia rolled over, closed her eyes, and slept peacefully the rest of the night.
When Nalina awoke again, the early rays of dawn were creeping over Neopia Central. She sat up with a start and chided herself for falling asleep. No one else was awake at the moment. Nalina climbed gingerly from the armchair, shivering as her bare paws touched the cold wooden floor. Stepping lightly around the sleeping Narros, Nalina quietly pushed open the back door and tiptoed out into the cool morning air.
She could hear the sounds of Neopia Central slowly coming alive. The air was crisp and clean against her face after the rain. Nalina closed the door behind her and set off to find breakfast for the three guests.
Later, Ten got up and began packing his knapsack for the journey ahead. He felt odd suddenly, as though he regretted leaving Narros and Nalina here. Was he feeling pity for them? Or was he afraid something would happen to them? Maybe he really liked them, and wanted them to come along. No, that was ridiculous. He had only known them for a few hours, and he was sleeping during much of that time. He needed only to find Jamie and look after his younger sister. That was the only real reason he had come on this quest, to protect Cleo and Jamie.
With a sigh he shoved some things into the bag and snapped it shut. Yes, he had more important things to do than worry about two homeless pets he hardly even knew.
Mysia, always an early riser, came into the room just then.
“Ten, the Zafara’s gone,” she said, and Ten could hear the panic in her voice, and see the worry in her eyes.
“But her brother’s still here?” he asked.
“Yes, he’s asleep, or at least pretending to be.”
“Relax, Mysia! It’s probably nothing.”
Ten’s tone of voice sounded like many others Mysia had heard before. She hated the word relax. Mysia hardly ever relaxed. Still, Ten was right. She was stressed out, and she didn’t need to worry so much. She swallowed the lump in her throat, sat down beside Ten, and began packing her bags.
Fifteen minutes later, Cleo sat up, rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and yawned. She climbed out of bed, stretched, and found her traveling companions.
“So, Mysia, where to today?” she asked, grabbing her own bag and stuffing it with her supplies.
“We’re going to Ankira’s,” Mysia replied, reaching for her water bottle.
The trio sat in silence for a while, and then suddenly a sharp rattling came from the door. Mysia glanced up and saw the knob turning. She held her breath as it creaked and swung open, but it was only Nalina, letting herself in with a tiny silver key. She had a satchel slung over her shoulder, filled with her findings.
“You were up awfully early,” Mysia commented stiffly.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Nalina replied, trying to be friendly. The faerie obviously didn’t trust her. Nalina hoped to break the ice between them, even though Mysia would be leaving shortly.
“Is Narros awake yet?” she asked. Cleo shook her head, causing her gray mane to flop back and forth.
Nalina left the room and found her brother still snoozing on the floor. As she entered Narros stirred slightly. His eyes opened a crack, blinked in the light, and slowly sat up.
“Finally awake?” Nalina asked, rummaging through a drawer.
“Yes, I am. What’s for breakfast?” Narros answered, stretching his wings.
“Get up and get your own breakfast!” Nalina retorted teasingly. Narros glared at his sister but then smiled, stood, and headed for the front room. He could hear voices from behind the door.
“She lives on the outskirts of the city,” Mysia was saying, “beside the ferry to Roo Island. But she’s not easy to find. The only time I ever delivered the Orb to her, we met in the woods by the bookshop. All I have is an address. And magic is almost certainly concealing the entrance.”
“Why don’t we just ask around? Ankira’s got to shop, right? We’ll ask a couple shopkeepers near the ferry if they’ve ever seen a fire faerie and if they know where she lives,” Cleo suggested.
“No!” Mysia insisted. “She’s not your average Neopian. She’ll keep to herself, just like me. Fire faeries draw attention in Neopia Central; it would be too risky for her to go out often. She wouldn’t risk the Orb’s safety, not for anything.” As Mysia finished this statement, Narros swung open the door.
“Narros,” Ten asked, “do you know where this is?” He handed Narros a slip of paper. On it was printed, in fading letters: 2865447 W. Magical Road, northeast Neopia Central.
“I don’t, but Nalina could find it,” Narros said instantly.
“Lead the way then,” Cleo said with a smile. Mysia looked far from thrilled, but she didn’t object. Narros asked Nalina, who agreed to lead them to Ankira’s. However, she insisted Narros come along as well. “He’s great at finding concealed entrances and hiding places,” she informed them.
So after breakfast Narros and Nalina lead the three visitors through the back alleys and darkened streets, the twists and turns of abandoned back pathways. Mysia clutched her special necklace the whole way. The stone was still fiery red.
Finally they arrived on West Magical Road. Sure enough, there was nothing between houses 2865446 and 2865448.
“It’s obviously invisible. There’s probably a secret something-or-other you must touch or move to reveal the entrance,” Narros speculated aloud.
Ten quickly spotted a Red Pteri by the bushes. The Pteri glanced at Mysia and said, “You’re here for Ankira, aren’t you?”
When Mysia said yes, the Pteri revealed the entrance, cleverly hidden with faerie magic. Tapping the seventh of twelve small stones hidden under the bushes revealed a row of sturdy stone steps leading up a narrow path to a silver front door. Narros, Nalina, Ten, Cleo, Mysia, and the red Pteri walked quickly up the stairs. Upon reaching the silver door Cleo saw a circular brass knocker. The door, up close, looked as though it were made of steel. The Pteri knocked on the door, and then ran her wing across the top edge of the bizarre door. As soon as she did, the stairs and door vanished once again. Cleo heard footsteps approaching. A shiver ran up the Uni’s spine as she realized they were about to meet the great Guardian Ankira.
Although she could no longer see the door, Cleo supposed it was swung open, for suddenly a fire faerie stood before them. Her features were softer than Mysia’s, her hair longer, and her skin a creamy color that differed from Mysia’s pale complexion. She took one long look at her visitors, and then stepped back and gestured them inside.
The moment Cleo stepped through the invisible doorway, she could see the entire house, front door and all. The entry hall was made of smooth marble, with a grand staircase leading up to other floors.
When they were all inside, Ankira bolted the door and turned to Mysia. “Who are they?” she asked, looking steadily at Cleo, Ten, Narros, and Nalina. Her voice was rich and smooth. She sounded educated, refined, and important.
“I’ll explain in a minute,” Mysia replied.
Ankira nodded and lead the way into an extravagant living room. The Pteri disappeared into another room. Mysia perched on an armchair, while Cleo and Ten sat beside each other on a sofa.
Narros and Nalina didn’t feel comfortable sitting on such beautiful furniture. The only pieces of furniture either of them could remember using had been broken or old. Carefully, Nalina seated herself on the edge of one of the less-luxurious armchairs. Narros sat beside Cleo on the couch, trying to touch it as little as possible.
Cleo, who had a short attention span, was looking at first one piece of gorgeous furniture and then another, awestruck by the grandeur of Ankira’s home.
When everyone was seated, Mysia said at once, “Who’s the Pteri?”
“My neighbor,” Ankira replied. “She and her owner are the only ones around here, but I had to tell them. They’d get suspicious of my “invisible” home immediately if they lived right next door. Besides, the Pteri’s owner, a girl I’ve met only twice, needed someone to look after the young pet in the afternoons. I’m sure they can be trusted. Her name, by the way, is Blodeuedd.”
“What kind of name is that?” Mysia asked. Ankira smiled and shrugged. “She goes by Edd, the last three letters of her name,” Ankira informed them.
“Did they seem interested in your story about the Orb?” Mysia asked.
“Well, of course, Mysia, it’s not every day you meet a Guardian of a mystic Orb who lives right next door in an invisible house! But don’t worry so much. The girl—her name escapes me—isn’t around often, and so Edd stays here with me on a fairly regular basis.”
“Well, if you’re sure.”
“Now then, aren’t you going to tell me who exactly they are?” Ankira asked, directing her gaze towards Narros, Nalina, Cleo, and Ten. Mysia sighed.
“The Scorchio and the Uni—their owner is Amman’s brother.”
“Amman, the boy who witnessed the creation of the Orb?”
“Yes. Amman has died, but his brother, their owner, still searches for the Orb. Recently they returned home to find his research burned, the home burglarized, and Jamie (that’s his name) gone. By coincidence, we ran into each other when I was leaving to find you. They’re helping me find the Orb, so they can find Jamie as well.
“The other two live here. They let us stay with them last night and led us here. It’s a long story, but they know all about the Orb.”
“And what might your names be?” Ankira asked them, as though realizing for the first time that they were in the room.
Each pet told her their name, and she smiled politely, saying, “Nice to meet you,” on cue.
And then Ankira said, “It’s time to discuss the reason you’re here—this.” She pulled a necklace perfectly identical to Mysia’s out. This stone glowed bright red as well.
“Of course!” said Mysia, suddenly impatient. She was tired of the formality of sitting in an expensive Neohome, while some evildoer was clutching the Orb at this very moment. “Did you have the Orb or not?” Mysia snapped.
“No, I did not, and apparently neither did you, otherwise you would not be asking,” Ankira said calmly.
Narros felt sudden tension in the room. The air felt strained and tight. He suddenly felt he shouldn’t be in the room, listening to such an important and private conversation. But neither Mysia nor Ankira seemed to notice the others in the room.
Mysia was fighting to keep her fiery temper under control. “Ankira,” she said, pronouncing each and every syllable with politeness, although you could hear a hint of rage underneath the calm, “do you know who last had it?”
Ankira was as upset as Mysia. Didn’t Mysia know she cared just as much about the Orb’s safety as Mysia did? She just happened to think being panicky was not the answer. “No,” she said, “I had it about a year ago, but when I learned I was getting neighbors I shipped it off to Sylia. Have you not had it recently?”
Mysia lost her composure then. “Why? Do you think I’m responsible for this? Do you think I let someone steal it? I haven’t had the Orb in a year and eight months!” What Mysia didn’t say was that she knew it had been one year, eight months, two weeks, and five days.
Both faeries looked at each other, fuming. Then Ankira, not bothering to remain calm this time, said, “It was just a question, Mysia! I’m not accusing anyone! I want to find the Orb as much as you do!”
“Oh, that’s obvious,” Mysia snarled. “You’re sitting here in your fancy home with your expensive furniture while I travel across Neopia with a Scorchio and a Uni trying to track it down! If I’m the only one who cares enough to get it back, so be it!” And with that Mysia spun on her heel and stomped right out the door.
Everyone remained very still. Ankira didn’t seem to notice anything for a moment, and then as if seeing them for the first time, she glared at the pets in her living room and yelled, “Out! All of you!”
They needed no further persuasion. They ran as fast as they could away from Ankira. When they left the house, they saw Mysia leaning against a tree, glaring at nothing in particular. Ten and Cleo headed for her at once, but Narros and Nalina hung back, not sure what to do.
Suddenly Nalina got a funny feeling in her stomach as she realized this was it. They were going back to live their normal lives and Cleo, Ten, and Mysia were leaving. Nalina would never know if they found the Orb, or if (she shuddered) they were all going to die in the attempt. She wanted to know. She had to know. Something told her now was not a good time, when Mysia was so angry, but she didn’t give herself time to think. She walked right up to Mysia, her heart pounding, and said, “We’re coming with you.”
To be continued...